Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

The Topsy Turvy TPP

Today’s question: What famous manifesto ends with the words: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working Men of All Countries, Unite!” (More famously, "Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!") Correct. The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels’ 1848 exhortation to working people everywhere. So it was startling to read this headline, “Communist Vietnam Says It Will Allow Unions and Strikes” – a condition insisted on by the Obama administration for admission into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I think this is the best opportunity we’ve had in years to encourage deep institutional reform in Vietnam that will advance human rights,” the state department’s Tom Malinowski told The New York Times. Hopefully, it will work out better than our last effort to democratize Vietnam.

Yet to pass legislation he considers critical to his legacy, Obama must rely on Republican votes in the face of fierce opposition from very strange bedfellows: environmentalists, organized labor and the Tea Party.

So here is America, which seems headed toward the wealth disparities described in the Manifesto and where politicians rise to prominence by attacking unions, telling one of the most “communist” nations on Earth to treat its workers better. On that anomaly alone, this agreement is more interesting than the reflexive responses it has evoked from both sides.

The legislation also contains a human rights agreement with Brunei, which recently instituted Sharia law and a return to “flogging, dismemberment and death by stoning.”

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